After the 2020 WNBA Draft, Curt Miller was shocked his Connecticut Sun were able to select Kaila Charles. The Sun did not have a first-round pick, so they were anxious about missing out on the former Maryland Terp.
“Charles was on our top-10 draft board for the last two months, and to watch her continue to slip in the second round was almost unbelievable for us,” Miller said after draft night. “We’re very fortunate to be able to be in the position to draft her.”
In just 16 games, Charles has shown the rest of the league exactly what they missed out on in April’s draft.
Charles has started five games this season, averaging 4.8 points and 2.2 rebounds in 15.3 minutes. In three games last week, the Maryland native totaled 30 points and 13 rebounds off the bench.
Improvements since College Park
Charles had a lengthy resume coming out of College Park. She was an All-American, Big Ten Player of the Year, Citizen Naismith Watch List, and Cheryl Miller Award Finalist, to name a few.
Her stat sheet was equally impressive: one of just six players in program history in top-10 in points (No. 6, 1,984) and rebounds (No. 6, 930) and tied Connecticut teammate Alyssa Thomas’ school record of 135 games started. She was in the first group for every game she played in.
Despite her accomplishments, Charles’ lacked solid three-pointing shooting coming out of college. She went just 10-of-45 from behind the arc, recording a 22.2 shooting percentage. In just half a WNBA season, Charles has almost surpassed the number of three-pointers she made in her entire collegiate career as she currently has nine made treys in 2020.
This missing piece from her skill set scared some head coaches away, but not Curt Miller and his coaching staff.
“Kaila only knows how to play one speed and it is full throttle,” Miller said last week. “It brings us some energy that we need. She is a very underrated shooter. Not really a three-point shooter in college, but she is more than a capable three-point shooter.”
Charles attributes her low three-point shooting in college to the system she was in at Maryland.
“The system I was in, I didn’t need to take as many shots, but I always worked on it every single day. I knew I was going to need it for the next level,” Charles said.
— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) September 2, 2020
Confidence & Constant Learning
Since joining the Sun, the Connecticut coaching staff has prioritized putting the pieces of Charles’ shooting together. The keys to her improvements this year have been confidence and constant learning.
On Sunday, Charles showcased some of her new found confidence. She tallied a career-high and team-high 16 points, 12 in the first half, to help lead the Sun to a much needed 76-63 win over the Mystics. Charles went 3-of-5 from the three-point line in the win.
“Our coaches are always talking about being confident, shooting the ball when you are open, and always believing it is going in,” Charles explained. “I just kept shooting and if it went it, it went in, and if it didn’t, I didn’t hang my head. I just kept playing and kept moving forward. I’ve been working on it and now I just have to have the confidence to do it.”
Coach Curt was like ‘I know you have the form, the mechanics, it is just confidence now. He gave me that confidence and I am just going to keep shooting whenever I am open and keep being consistent.”
In addition to being confident, Charles lives by the idea that the learning never stops. It doesn’t matter whether you are a rookie or a 15-year veteran, there is always something to learn and improve on.
“There is so much more to learn and understand,” Charles explained. “That comes with reps and we don’t practice as much, so I do a lot of film. I think I am more comfortable because I am doing film and listening to my coaches. The vets are always talking to me about my game.”
“She’s a tough kid,” teammate Jasmine Thomas said of Charles’ work ethic. “She works hard and learns on the fly. You can see her adjusting to things that she’s being taught at this pro level.”
The Sun started 2020 off 0-5, but have slowly turned the season around. Standing at 8-9, Connecticut ranks seventh in the league standings, two games behind Phoenix and a game and a half in front of Dallas. Charles’ contributions have certainly helped propel the Sun into playoff contenders.
“I am starting to settle in, I am starting to find my rhythm. But, there is always room for improvement and I am going to be working every single day to get better,” Charles added.
“Both have a future with the Sun and we are pleased with their progression in a season where it is not real easy to put in the time to get better,” Miller said of his two rookies in Charles and Beatrice Mompremier.
Up next, Charles and the Sun will battle the No. 2 Las Vegas Aces (12-4) on Thursday, Sept. 3 at 8 PM ET on Twitter and MyLVTV.